Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, recently made a rare official visit to Oman on Thursday, marking the first Israeli visit to the Sunni-majority state in over 20 years.
The surprise meeting with Oman’s Sultan Qaboos was kept secret until the Israeli premier’s return home, after which Netanyahu’s office announced the visit.
The two countries share no official diplomatic ties; however, their relations were slightly warmed up following the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, as reported by Haaretz.
Per the report, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also visited Oman last week and called it “successful on all levels” in an interview on Palestinian TV.
Despite a stalemate over the Palestinian crisis, Netanyahu said that the visit was an attempt to strengthen ties with the Arab world. He took to Twitter on Friday and posted photos of his reception and the meeting with the Sultan.
“The visit is a significant step in implementing the policy that I have outlined to strengthen relations with the states of the region while leveraging Israel’s advantages in security, technology and economic matters.”
The two leaders discussed peace initiatives in the Middle East together with other issues of shared interest, Netanyahu’s office said in a statement. The statement further added that the visit came at the invitation of Sultan Qaboos and took place after “lengthy contacts between the two countries,” per Haaretz.
The Israeli premier’s wife Sara Netanyahu also accompanied her husband during the visit along with the Israeli delegation comprising Mosaad Intelligence chief Yossi Cohen and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat.
הביקור הוא צעד משמעותי ביישום המדיניות שהתוותי להידוק הקשרים עם מדינות האזור, תוך מינוף יתרונותיה של ישראל בביטחון, בטכנולוגיה ובכלכלה pic.twitter.com/sjWMFQXRuF— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) October 26, 2018
The last Israeli leader to visit Oman was Shimon Peres who visited the country in 1996. Prior to that, the former Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, visited Oman in 1994, marking the first-ever Israeli visit to the country. The visits were paid after the two countries agreed to open trade offices.
In October of 2000, however, Oman closed the offices following the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada.
The only two Arab countries that have full diplomatic relations with Israel are Egypt and Jordan. However, in 2017, the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, said that Israel enjoys “warm relations with a dozen Arab countries” even though they do not officially recognize the state’s existence, per a report by the Israeli National News (Arutz Sheva 7).
“They still do not vote with us, but I can say that we have a relationship with them. We are talking about a dozen Islamic countries, including the Arab countries that understand the potential of relations with Israel. The State of Israel is not the regional problem, it is the regional solution, so we are strengthening this cooperation.”